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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 4
September 24, 2003
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM Bye Week:
ARZ at STL KC at BAL ATL at CAR *IND at NO Miami
TEN at PIT *NE at WAS DAL at NYJ Mon 9 PM NY Giants
CIN at CLE *PHI at BUF *DET at DEN *GB at CHI Seattle
JAX at HOU *SF at MIN *SD at OAK *updated Tampa Bay
   
San Francisco vs Minnesota Sun, Sep 28; 1 PM on FOX at Metrodome
  San Francisco Rush Catch Pass
QB Jeff Garcia 0 0 230,2
RB Garrison Hearst 70 10 0
RB Kevan Barlow 40 10 0
TE Jed Weaver 0 10 0
WR Terrell Owens 0 90,1 0
WR Tai Streets 0 60,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0
  Minnesota Rush Catch Pass
QB Gus Frerotte 0 0 210,1
RB Onterrio Smith 10 10 0
RB Moe Williams 70,1 20 0
TE J. Kleinsasser 0 20 0
WR Randy Moss (Q) 0 50 0
WR Kelly Campbell 0 60,1 0
WR Nate Burleson 0 30 0
WR D'Wayne Bates 0 40,1 0


Game Prediction: SF 23, MIN 20

Update: D'Wayne Bates continues to be bothered by his foot injury and has only partially practiced. Chances are that he will likely miss this game and Kelly Campbell will again move into his spot, moving Nate Burleson into the #3 role. Doug Chapman has practiced the past two days and could be available for duty, making the Onterrio Smith role more clouded. Randy Moss still has back pain but is expected to play and while Daunte Culpepper has improved, he is still not a lock to get the start. A decision may be made later to use him since his injury is more playing with pain than risking further injury, but the most likely play is that Gus Frerotte gets the start and he has been working out with the first team. Based on the best information available, I am considering Culpepper and Bates out this week and Moss to play but be limited.

Jeff Garcia is also on the injury report as probable and has been battered the past few weeks. The success teams have had going after him will only spawn more blitzes until the SF passing attack regains a more respected status again. Word is that the 49ers will try to do more to establish the run than they have been which has led to a slight change to their numbers.

After dumping Steve Mariucci for being too conservative and not scoring enough, the 49ers brought in Dennis Erickson to rekindle the stat-happy offense that the fans came to expect. Currently both Erickson and Mariucci are head coaches of 1-2 teams. The only difference is that Mariucci has an excuse and far lower expectations.

In light of the 12-13 loss to the Browns, the 49er lockerroom is in a bit of disarray. The same team that had given up a record 295 yards to Jamal Lewis the week before held Garrison Hearst (9-18) and Kevan Barlow (7-14) to far less yardage, gaining less in the entire game than Lewis did on several separate runs the prior week. Blocking FB Fred Beasley has taken it upon himself to speak out publicly that San Francisco needs to stick with just one runner following Beasley's backside every game. Of course his best friend is Garrison Hearst too.

Jeff Garcia ended with 198 yards and one interception. On the plus side, he was the team's leading rusher with 40 yards on five runs. Terrell Owens (8-90) is again noticing (AKA complaining) that he is not being used on every single play which is, evidently, a misuse of him. The reality is that Owens currently has had two runs and 34 passes thrown to him of which he has caught 20 for 244 yards and one touchdown. With 36 plays called for him, he is currently the most heavily used wide receiver in the NFL anyway (#2 Anquan Boldin has had 34 plays called for him - he just did more with them).

Tai Streets (4-53) and Cedric Wilson (4-57) provided consistent targets when they were thrown the ball, even though that meant they were not throwing to Owens on the play.

The 49er defense played well enough for most of the game, but their decision to play back against the pass allowed Cleveland to score two fourth quarter touchdowns and take the win away. On the Brown's final drive in the game, they took the ball on their own 9-yard line with 6:19 left on the clock and then reel off a 17 play drive that consumed all but 29 seconds left in the game that culminated in the second touchdown to Andre' Davis in the endzone as five different 49er defenders watched him leap up in the air. The way they were all positioned around Davis looked like a synchronized swimming routine.

San Francisco needs to get back on track quickly and find the redzone offense that has disappeared lately before finger pointing and dissension starts to erode their potential. There is still time for that to happen and make them feel good about themselves again but a loss to Minnesota will put team morale even farther in the tank. The week after that - Mariucci comes back to his old home wanting nothing more than to win that one game over all others.

The Vikings are now 3-0 and already have a two game lead over the rest of the division. I'll let that sink in.

Minnesota dispatched the Lions, curing their previous troubles in Detroit by springing Moe Williams free to gain 95 yards on 13 carries and 54 yards on six catches. He gained 61 yards on one run and the Vikings were able to beat the Lions by relying on the pass more with a ratio of 32:22 in the game.

Onterrio Smith only had two carries last week for three yards and with Frerotte needing pass protection, he is less likely to be a big factor this week.

Daunte Culpepper returned to his deadly quarterback draw skills, scoring on both his runs while only throwing for 105 yards before leaving the game with a back injury suffered on the second score. Culpepper suffered three fractures to his transverse processes and will not practice this week until Friday at the earliest as he is treated for the injury. He is not ruled out this week yet and HC Mike Tice has said the question is how much pain that Culpepper can deal with as he plays. For now, I am assuming that he will not play but will update as needed. It normally is expected to affect a player for two to six weeks.

Last week Gus Frerotte replaced Culpepper and threw for 184 yards and one touchdown on a 72 yard pass to Kelly Campbell. He also completed another 72 yarder to Randy Moss who ended the game with 85 yards on three catches. Moss finally admitted that he has been playing with back spasms this season but he is expected to play this week though he will be listed as questionable. If nothing else, he makes a tremendous decoy.

D'Wayne Bates had a bruised foot and did not play last week but is expected back for this game.

This game pits the 49ers who are struggling against internal questions against the Vikings who are playing far better defense, have managed to assemble a rushing game that is "good enough" and now must contend with the specter of not having their star quarterback this week along with Randy Moss who is not 100%.

The 49ers are harder to evaluate since they looked great their first six quarters of the season and have been far less the last six quarters they have played. They enter the game with the pieces but less a sense that they are putting them together as well as they should. They are back inside a domed stadium where they normally have more problems than usual.

Look for a close game that will hinge on the health of Randy Moss. If he can play well, or at least cause enough concern that he affects the secondary, then the passing of Frerotte comes to life with the shorter throws. Both teams have been tough against the run this season and practicality says that San Francisco wins this game since otherwise the Vikings go to 4-0 and the 49ers fall to 1-3 and parity does not like extremes.

San Francisco should grab a very close win here even though it is inside a dome. They have all the motivation they need to play hard while the Vikings are going to contend with injuries to their two biggest stars. It should be a great game to watch and the only certainty to the matchup is that afterwards Terrell Owens will think he did not get enough plays.

SF
MIN
2003 Averages
MIN
SF
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
216
209
Pass yards
233
184
1.3
0.7
Pass TDs
2.3
1.7
1.0
2.7
Interceptions
16.7
1.3
30
15
Rush yards
11
7
0.3
0.0
Rush TDs
0.7
0.0
----
----
RB's
----
----
98
58
Rush yards
114
56
0.7
1.0
Rush TDs
0.3
0.3
40
43
Receive yards
50
25
0.3
0.0
Receive TD's
0.3
0.0
----
----
WR's
----
----
154
135
Receive yards
159
146
1.3
0.7
Receive TD's
1.0
1.3
----
----
TE's
----
----
23
31
Receive yards
24
13
0.0
0.0
Receive TD's
0.7
0.3
----
----
PK's
----
----
3.3
1.7
Field Goals
1.7
0.7
2.7
1.7
Extra Points
3.0
2.0
----
----
DEF/ST
----
----
2.3
1.3
Fumbles
0.3
0.3
1.3
0.3
Interceptions
2.7
1.0
0.3
0.0
Touchdowns
0.0
0.3
4.3
2.3
Sacks
2.0
0.7
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.0
49ers (1-2)
Score Opp.
49-7 CHI
24-27 @STL
12-13 CLE
Week 4 @MIN
Week 5 DET
Week 6 @SEA
Week 7 TB
Week 8 @ARZ
Week 9 STL
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 PIT
Week 12 @GB
Week 13 @BAL
Week 14 ARZ
Week 15 @CIN
Week 16 @PHI
Week 17 SEA
Vikings (3-0)
Score Opp.
30-25 @GB
24-13 CHI
23-13 @DET
Week 4 SF
Week 5 @ATL
Week 6 BYE
Week 7 DEN
Week 8 NYG
Week 9 GB
Week 10 @SD
Week 11 @OAK
Week 12 DET
Week 13 @STL
Week 14 SEA
Week 15 @CHI
Week 16 KC
Week 17 @ARZ
(Statistics are game averages from current season )